Eleanor & Park (Rowell)

Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell, 2013
St. Martin's Griffin
320 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781250012579

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1973-74
Where—Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Education—University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Currently—lives in Omaha

Rainbow Rowell is an American author of young adult and adult contemporary novels. Her first novel Attachments, published in 2011, is a contemporary romantic comedy about a company's IT guy who falls in love with a woman whose email he has been monitoring. Kirkus Reviews listed it as one of the outstanding debuts of 2011.

In 2013 Rowell published two young adult novels: Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Both were chosen by the New York Times as being some of the best young adult fiction of the year. Eleanor & Park was also chosen by Amazon as one of the 10 best books of 2013, and as Goodreads' best young adult fiction of the year. DreamWorks and Carla Hacken are planning a movie, for which Rowell has been asked to write the screenplay.

Rowell completed the first draft of Fangirl for National Novel Writing Month in 2011. It was chosen as the inaugural selection for Tumblr's reblog book club. Landline, Rowell's fourth novel, a contemporary adult novel about a marriage in trouble, was released in 2014.

Rowell's work also gained attention in 2013 when a parents' group at a Minnesota high school challenged Eleanor & Park, and Rowell herself was disinvited to a library event; however, a panel ultimately determined that the book could stay on library shelves. Rowell noted in an interview that the material that these parents were calling "profane" was what many kids in difficult situations realistically had to deal with, and that "when these people call Eleanor & Park an obscene story, I feel like they’re saying that rising above your situation isn’t possible."

The book has also come under fire from a multitude of social justice and Korean activist sources because of its fetishization of Korean bodies (particularly "feminine" masculinity), misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Asian diasporic and half-Asian experiences, and overt tones of white saviour complex.  (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 7/14/2014.)

Visit the author's website.

Book Reviews
I have never seen anything quite like Eleanor & Park. Rainbow Rowell's first novel for young adults is a beautiful, haunting love story…Its observational precision and richness make for very special reading…Evocative sensual descriptions are everywhere in this novel, but they always feel true to the characters…Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it's like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it's like to be young and in love with a book.
John Green - New York Times Book Review

(Ages 13–up.) Half-Korean sophomore Park Sheridan is getting through high school by lying low.... Then new girl Eleanor gets on the bus.... Adult author Rowell (Attachments), making her YA debut, has a gift for showing what Eleanor and Park, who tell the story in alternating segments, like and admire about each other. Their love is believable and thrilling, but it isn’t simple.... Rowell keeps things surprising, and the solution—imperfect but believable—maintains the novel’s delicate balance of light and dark.
Publishers Weekly

(Grade 9-up.) In this novel set in the 1980s, teenagers Eleanor and Park are outsiders; Eleanor, because she's new to the neighborhood, and Park, because he's half Asian. Although initially wary of each other, they quickly bond over their love of comics and 1980s alternative music. Eleanor's home life is difficult...[and when her] stepfather's behavior grows even more menacing, Park assists in her escape.... Although the narrative points of view alternate between Eleanor and Park, the transitions are smooth. Crude language is realistic. Purchase for readers who are drawn to quirky love stories or 1980s pop culture. —Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
Library Journal

(Age 14-up.) Awkward, prickly teens find deep first love in 1980s Omaha. Eleanor and Park don't meet cute; they meet vexed on the school bus, trapped into sitting together by a dearth of seats and their low social status.... Despite Eleanor's resolve not to grow attached to anything, and despite their shared hatred for clichés, they fall, by degrees, in love. Through Eleanor and Park's alternating voices, readers glimpse the swoon-inducing, often hilarious aspects of first love, as well as the contrast between Eleanor's survival of grim, abuse-plagued poverty and Park's own imperfect but loving family life. Funny, hopeful, foulmouthed, sexy and tear-jerking, this winning romance will captivate teen and adult readers alike.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Eleanor says she and Park are too young for true love. Do you believe that? Do you think Eleanor believes that?
2. How do Eleanor and Park's parents shape their outlook on relationships and the future?
3. Is Eleanor's mother a good mother? Why does she stay with Richie?
4. Why does Park's mother change her mind about Eleanor?
5. How is Park's relationship with his mother different from his relationship with his father? Who sees Park more clearly, his father or his mother?

6. Why is Park embarrassed by Eleanor? Is his embarrassment a betrayal?
7. Steve says that he's Park's friend—is he a true friend? Are Steve and Tina good guys or bad guys in the story? Do you think Eleanor and Tina could ever be friends?

8. How would Eleanor and Park's relationship be different in 2013? How would cell phones, digital music, and Internet access change their situation?
9. What is the importance of music in Park's life? And how is it different for Eleanor?
10. SPOILER ALERT. Was Eleanor right to run away? Should she have left her brothers and sister behind? Was there more she could have done to help them?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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